Where Tasting is an Event
Wine tasting at Paul Hobbs is more than a tasting, it's an event. And it should be, since the least expensive option is a $65 reserved appointment — worth every penny. The moment you arrive you'll be greeted by name by a host who will hand you a glass of chilled Chardonnay harvested from the vines just outside the door. The winery only conducts a handful of small-group appointments Monday through Friday, so not only will your host be full of enthusiasm and energy, you can rest assured that any fellow tour-goers are more than just curious wine country wanderers.
After everyone in the group has arrived, you'll be led on a tour of the estate, which includes the immediate surrounding vineyards, the fermentation cellar and the barrel warehouse. Each stop will include a detailed overview of owner and winemaker Paul Hobbs' winemaking process, which you can tangibly appreciate, sipping that first glass of Chardonnay as you walk along. Questions are encouraged, and there's no shortage of knowledge from the hospitality crew, as the winery staff is a small one and works directly with Hobbs himself. Once the tour has concluded, you'll be led into a dining area, elegantly decorated and filled with amazing aromas from the neighboring kitchen.
The sit-down Signature Tasting includes a flight of four current releases as well as bite-sized snacks of cheeses, estate-grown fruit and a freshly baked pastry, all of which help put the wine into culinary context. Though the setting and surrounding may conjure up feelings of fine-dining, the tasting is a laid-back, casual affair. You're encouraged to take your time with each wine, discuss tasting notes with fellow tour-goers and experiment with the suggested food and wine pairings. And because the tasting appointments are so spaced out throughout the day, you're welcome to linger a bit longer after your allotted 75 minutes end.
WHAT TO TRY: Paul Hobbs is a proud producer of age-worthy Chardonnays, full-bodied Pinot Noirs and chewably tannic Cabernet Sauvignons — but he also has a small vineyard lot dedicated to Syrah, mostly for blending purposes. Apparently when a vintage is particularly fruitful or, according to the hostess, "when Paul feels like it," he'll produce a few bottles of Syrah to sell. If this anomaly is available during your visit, try it.
INSIDE INFO: Buying Paul Hobbs wines is limited to those who visit the winery in person or join the mailing list. At the end of your tasting you can fill out an order form that includes a lot more than what was poured at the table. If interested, it's worth asking your host if there are any "off the menu" items you can try before you buy (especially since you'll be paying between $55 to $425 per bottle).